GLOBAL APPEAL: Joe Hice, MAJC 1976, is implementing the campaign. (Photo by Andrea Morales)
Marketing campaign helps elevate UF’s academic status
No longer just an athletics slogan, Gator Nation is helping UF achieve top 10 public university status as part of an ongoing marketing campaign.
“Gator Nation was stolen by sports enthusiasts, and we really wanted the university to take that back,” said Fletcher Martin President and CEO Andy Fletcher, ADV 1979. “It’s really anyone who has a love for UF.”
Along with more than a dozen advertising agencies, Atlanta-based Fletcher Martin bid for UF’s marketing campaign in 2005. As a finalist, it made recommendations to an agency-selection committee and later, together with the University Relations Office, presented the idea to UF President Bernie Machen.
“I think Dr. Machen was a little resistant to go with the Gator Nation idea because of its well-known association with athletics,” Fletcher said, “None of the ads reference athletics at all.”
UF is the foundation for the Gator Nation, as the campaign proclaims, because it creates Gators, Fletcher said. “I interview lots of people for jobs and when they say where they went to school, they say, ‘I went to Florida State.’ But if they went to UF, they say, ‘I’m a Gator.’”
One of the TV spots shows people greeting each other by saying, “Go start a Fortune 500 company. Go write the great American novel. Go cure cancer. Go to Mars. Go Gators!” One man says, “Gators jia you” (“Go Gators” in Mandarin Chinese).
UF ran a $210,680 cable TV Gator Nation campaign in Florida last year. It also ran two ads in every home-game football program.
“Most of our early efforts have been in Florida because we’re trying to mobilize the Gators here,” said Joe Hice, MAJC 1976, UF’s associate vice president of Marketing and Public Relations. “We need to really engage and excite Gators throughout the state, and reconnect them emotionally with the university.”
Most of the TV ads run in the winter, when many Northerners, including donors and academic leaders, visit Florida, Hice noted.
UF also ran ads in two national outlets – Harper’s Magazine and The Atlantic Monthly. Adding production, the campaign has cost about $800,000. It will run as long as it is effective, Hice said. Spending will increase slightly in coming months and the total production expenses, ad placements, public relations and Internet activities will be in the $1 million range.
The campaign’s second phase, which started this semester, includes print ads, TV and radio spots, a new Welcome Center video and a public relations effort that includes pitching UF story ideas to Harper’s, Smithsonian and The New York Times.
“We’re saying we’ve got to get more people aware of UF and the story of it,” Fletcher said.
The campaign also aims to encourage contribution to and participation with UF, Hice said.
It seems to be helping: In the latest U.S. News & World Report, which came out in August, UF ranked 13th among public universities, up three spots from last year.
As part of this effort, the university is also boosting its internal communications, Hice said. This semester, it started publishing a bi-weekly newsletter, Inside UF, for students, faculty and staff in the Florida Independent Alligator and online.
“This campaign is multi-faceted,” said John Sutherland, chair of the College’s Department of Advertising. “It’s the idea that when you graduate from UF, you become part of a family and it goes way beyond athletics.”